The Mepham boys’ soccer team is back to breathing rarefied air – though for the time being it’ll have to be shared with a clinging conference rival.
In a highly-awaited clash of unbeatens Oct. 7, Mepham (6-0-4) and reigning A1 champion MacArthur (6-0-4) stymied each other's bids at sole possession of first place in league, playing to a 1-1 draw to keep the teams deadlocked atop A1. And though the outcome left certain matters unsettled, one thing has become clear: The Pirates' two-year swoon is at an end.
Coming off back-to-back .500 seasons after taking the 2018 Nassau title, Mepham's move this fall to a three-forward front has been its springboard, bearing fruit in the form of the league's top offense (2.4 goals per game). Honorable Mention All-County striker Dominic Saraceni and fellow juniors Deshaun Maitland and Sean Scott have turned on the burners to combine for 15 tallies and nine assists.
“Our front three are very fast,” said Gosse. “Dominic’s pace makes him difficult to defend. Deshaun is also very quick, and very tricky. When Sean is confident, he can be one of the best players on the field. He’s capable of beating players 1-v-1, and he gets in behind the defense because of his speed.”
Added Gosse: “Last year we had some difficulty scoring. This year we thought the new formation would suit our players better because of their pace. Our best defense this year is our offense.”
To be sure. Though perhaps to make the reverse case also would not be outlandish. Mepham’s defense ranks second in A1 with seven goals permitted in 10 games – one more than No. 1 MacArthur’s six goals. All-Conference outside back Dimitri Gogas (junior) and center backs Carter Chiarello (senior) and Jeffery Decina (junior) have helped make Mepham’s back line a fitting companion to its league-leading front three.
“Dimitri’s a catalyst, and not only defensively,” Gosse said of the defender with five assists. “He tackles well. But also, when we’re building an attack, he can get us up the field. Carter plays at a high level leading from the back. A very smart defender. Jeffery’s a stalwart who rarely makes mistakes. He has bailed us out with last-ditch tackles.”
At midfield, juniors Konstantinos Karousis, an All-Conference third-year starter, and Kyle Persaud have been two-way lynchpins for Mepham – notching two goals and seven assists, and three goals and two assists, respectively – while All-Conference senior Emiliano Avalos (two goals, one assist) and sophomore Brendan Tansey (three goals, one assist) have also done their bit at both ends. “Our midfielders are all very strong technically,” Gosse said. “All-around very solid players capable of switching the point of attack nicely.”
Mepham wraps its regular season with a cluster of three games in four days, the toughest test coming Oct. 14 at third-place Long Beach (5-2-3) – a foe MacArthur must also face on Oct. 12.
“We’d like to win out and wrap up a conference title,” Gosse said, adding, “Then make a push in the playoffs, and try to repeat 2018.”